What Do We Know About the Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction of Lawyers? A Meta-Analysis of Research on Lawyer Satisfaction and Well-Being
51 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2012
Date Written: 2011
In the last two to three decades, there has been a great deal of scholarly and media attention placed on lawyer dissatisfaction, generating a certain “conventional wisdom” about the endemic dissatisfaction of lawyers. During this period, however, the empirical literature has fairly consistently suggested that lawyers generally experience a great deal of job and career satisfaction. Recent scholarship has recognized this dichotomy in the lawyer satisfaction/dissatisfaction literature. This article summarizes all of the empirical work on lawyer satisfaction/dissatisfaction and attempts to reconcile this seemingly conflicting data. The article begins with a chronological overview of the published research and of samples of the media descriptions of lawyers’ mental health, well-being, and satisfaction/dissatisfaction. It then analyzes this collective data set in an effort to reconcile and understand somewhat conflicting data, focusing on specific subsets of the legal profession: experience levels (senior lawyers versus junior lawyers), practice settings (large firm, small firm, government, and public interest), and demographic profiles (women and racial minorities). The article concludes with suggestions for further research and thoughts on what legal education can be doing to better frame students’ expectations for the practice of law.
Keywords: legal profession, lawyer satisfaction, professional formation, legal education
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